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Wednesday, 27 March 1968

Dr GIBBS (Bowman) - 1 associate myself with the remarks of the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Davies). I felt privileged to be able to attend the conference. It was a conference of considerable value. Very satisfactory arrangements were made for the visiting delegates to see something of the country and to assess some of the problems of the country. This is a very good arrangement. It also enables delegates to meet and to get to know one another and this has a bearing on the subsequent debates. The honourable member said that the problem of Rhodesia was raised. The debate on this issue was rather hectic, but it would have been much more hectic if the delegates had not already met and heard the differing views. Many of the delegates hit very hard, but underlying the debate was a feeling of friendliness and understanding, and this was most important. Without it the debate may have gone beyond reasonable bounds.

The problems raised by the formation of the European Economic Community were discussed. The very pressing problem of food production and the increase of world population occupied one committee session. The debate was of a high order and showed that delegates had done a good deal of work. Many, though by no means all, of the delegates were aware of the tremendous problems created by the rapid increase of the population of various countries. Disease generally has been checked and many fatal diseases have been conquered. As a result, populations are increasing by leaps and bounds. Some countries have difficulty in maintaining an economy that will meet the needs of the increasing population and other countries are unable to deal with the problems adequately. Increasing misery and starvation are the result and this will have very serious repercussions in the very near future. Britain's efforts to join the European Economic Community have been mentioned. Britain will be required to subscribe to the Treaty of Rome. This is a very inelastic treaty. It sets up a supranational organisation to control the economic affairs of the members and it must have repercussions in other areas, such as defence and transport. Under this arrangement, parliamentary democracy will be considerably weakened and important decisions that would otherwise be made by a government will now be made by the supranational body, which is not responsible to the people. This very important point should be borne in mind by those people who consider subscribing to the Treaty of Rome.

Some of the problems and difficulties inherent in the parliamentary system were also discussed at the conference. 1 was unable to attend this discussion because I was present at other discussions that were held at the same time. However I understand that the debate was very good. I would make one suggestion. A good deal of time was devoted to delivering papers and virtually no time was left for discussion. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association may consider making more time available for debates or restricting the first half of the time allowed for a debate to the submission of prepared papers and keeping the remainder of the time for discussion of the papers. I am sure such an arrangement would prove to be helpful. I would like to pay my own tribute to Mr Doug Blake. He was a most pleasant companion and he worked very hard. Nothing was too much trouble for him. He was most conscientious. We were very happy to have his company and we benefited from the tremendous work he did for us. Without his assistance we would have experienced difficulties.

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